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Familiar face returns to Cotswold Line
RAIL passengers will feel the benefit of efforts to cut overcrowding on trains between Oxfordshire and London from Monday, with five extra express trains entering service.
The distinctive-wedge-nosed 125mph Class 180 Adelante trains are returning to duty with operator First Great Western after a three-year break and will be dedicated to services between London, Oxford and the Cotswold Line to Worcester.
In autumn 2010, all of the 10 most overcrowded trains in the South East of England were FGW services to or from London's Paddington station, but since then the firm has made progress on tackling the problem.
Department for Transport figures for last spring saw that figure halved. Statistics released earlier this month by the DfT, showing the number of rush-hour passengers in excess of each train operator’s fleet’s designed capacity, said that while FGW had the highest level among rail firms in the South East last year, at 10.5 per cent across both daily peaks, this had been cut from 16.6 per cent in 2010.
From Monday, almost all weekday trains on the Cotswold Line will be operated by the 280-seat Class 180s, or FGW’s High Speed Trains, which have seats for 500 or 580 passengers, with just a handful of Thames Turbo services running west of Oxford.
Adelantes were used on the Cotswold Line from 2004-09 but were transferred to other duties after FGW acquired extra High Speed Trains. They will also operate a number of peak trains between Oxford and London, serving Radley, Culham, Appleford, Didcot Parkway, Cholsey and Goring & Streatley.
FGW managing director Mark Hopwood said: “The trains are looking really good and a lot of people have said to me that they look like new trains.
“From Monday there will be a big change in the fleet of trains on the Cotswold Line but the Turbos currently in use will not be going anywhere, they will remain with us and will be used to lengthen Thames Valley services.
“In addition, a number of the HSTs in use on Oxford and Cotswold services will soon be extended from seven to eight coaches, giving an extra 80 seats.
“When you add all these changes together, that’s 4,500 extra seats on our services every weekday, a nine per cent increase in capacity in morning and evening rush-hours in and out of Paddington.
Lord Faulkner, the president of the Cotswold Line Promotion Group, which represents passengers and campaigns for improvements to the route, said: “The train looks wonderful and I’m sure they’re going to be adding to the popularity of the service between Worcester, Oxford and London.”